‘I Was Born Resisting’

‘Listen to the Chorus’ is a new video installation by the Toronto art collective, Madeleine Co. Its message? Refuse to be silent.

It all started with Marcel Proust’s obsession with a cookie.

In Remembrance of Things Past, he writes:

“No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate, a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, but individual, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory — this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was myself. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, accidental, mortal.”

Nicole Bazuin, one of the three woman — alongside Alexandra Hong and Cheryl Hsu — who founded Madeleine Co., told me the group wanted to elicit that same flood of emotions from their viewers; they wanted to trigger a deluge of feelings.

“Art isn’t necessarily solution-oriented in the way design is, and so it can be exploratory and act as a trigger towards the discussions that lead to real change,” Bazuin wrote me.

Madeleine Co.’s latest project—an immersive, four-channel video installation, Listen to the Chorus—grew out of conversations within their collective about incidences of sexual harassment and abuse they’ve experienced; they wanted to create a piece that could lance some of that pain and frustration.

The women hosted a dinner series to expand the conversation and eventually collaborated with poet Nasim Asgari, who took inspiration from the common themes of those conversations and wove together a tapestried experience.

Composer Cecilia Livingston then incorporated the poem as part of an intricate acapella soundscape performed by Asgari alongside singers Jacoba Barber-Rozema, Joanna Burt, and Renée Ashanta Henry.

Madeleine Co. aims “to reimagine social issues through films, installations, and multidisciplinary projects.” Their recent work includes a CBC Arts Original Series, This Art Works!, featuring Canadian artists making socially engaged works, and the Climate Talks documentary series that invites youth and adults to discuss their fears, apathy, and hope around the destruction of our environment.

A still from the film ‘Mouth Shapes’ / Vimeo
“Between the three of us in Madeleine Co., we have specialties in film, photography, design, and social practice, and we’ve found that bringing our collective powers together has allowed us to tackle a range of multimedia projects more ambitiously and prolifically than we could have individually. Our collective is also founded on our friendship, and it’s been an incredible opportunity to work closely with each other on projects we find meaningful.”